A few months ago, Kojak’s Fine Foods owner Mark Oster told The Leader that they were gearing up to offer a dinner service again, after Braun Enterprises purchased the center, and updated it. Now that plan is coming to fruition, in addition to other changes at the café, which is located at 1912 West 18th St.
“Our project start is mid-May for dinner and we’re on target for that,” said Oster.
Oster said that the 2,500 square foot restaurant is getting a whole new look, with new lighting, paint, decor and new tables, which will be maple instead of laminate.
“We’re adding a few more tables too,” said Oster.
Something Oster is very excited about is the addition of a handmade wooden bar and counter unit with 10 seats and TVs overhead for those who want to have a beer and a glass of wine, and a quick bite to eat.
“It will be both upscale and casual,” said Oster. “We’re also looking forward to having craft beer and wine available.”
While Kojak’s has been known for its lunch crowd because of all the businesses in the area, they have offered dinner in the past – and with all the new families moving into the area, Oster is looking forward to having a dinner service again.
He said he’s gotten to know Greg Gordon who is opening La Vista 101 nearby.
“Our area is growing,” said Oster. “I heard someone call this strip center a destination center and I think that’s true.”
Oster said that when he was thinking of how Kojak’s should evolve, he did a lot of research on area restaurants like Dish Society, Black Walnut Cafe, and Café Express. While elements of those popular chains will be incorporated, Kojak’s will have its own imprint as a standalone business.
And, the owner will be on site.
“It will still be counter service,” he said. “We will still be who we are, but we have other ideas too.”
One thing Oster has spent a long time pondering is the pricing of his food.
“We are going to be a fast casual restaurant with well priced food,” he said.
Kojak’s will still offer breakfast and lunch, and will still do catering. They will have old favorites on the lunch menu, while adding some power bowls too. Dinner will have entrees in the $12 to $15 range, and there will be a kids menu too.
“It will be kid friendly,” he said. “We want mom and dad and the kids to all come in.”
Oster has plans to ramp up their coffee offerings and wants to promote their gelato sales.
“We’ll sell more gelato at dinner,” he said.
As someone who has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, Oster has seen it all. Before coming to Kojak’s 18 years ago, he was a chef at Benjy’s in the mid 1990s and worked for Monica Pope as well. Oster also spent time in Napa Valley restaurants. He and his wife bought the business from two brothers, who in turn had bought Kojak’s from Mr. Kojak, when it used to be a high end grocer on Shepherd Drive. Oster remembers offering the specials out of a steamer in the middle of the floor, and also what the floor paint color looked like under the tile they eventually laid. Everything old is new again, because that olive green color is part of the new design scheme too along with sky blue and a terra cotta accents.
Oster was encouraged to restart the dinner service with new tenants like I Love Kickboxing and the forthcoming Sola Salon.
“We’ll get more traffic,” said Oster. “There’s been nothing to draw you. There used to be a tenant here that sold funeral store caskets. “We’ve seen it all.”